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2013/09/03 / Shanan

CANNING AS A DEFENCE MECHANISM 101

Sorry for the silent treatment, but my head’s been elsewhere these last few days.  I won’t get too deep into it, but I’ve been extremely anxious about Theo starting school (especially vis à vis her seemingly-forever-in-progress toilet-training) and my first in-car driving lesson, which is booked for this afternoon.  I consider myself lucky that I have, in my daily life in general, very little that truly stresses me out.  I mean I still get tired, and can feel overwhelmed, and I have my bi-monthly personal crisis about work and money, but those things don’t provoke the deep-down visceral reaction I’ve been experiencing lately that I just can’t shake.  I don’t really feel like myself.

My defence mechanism has been to retreat into harvesting and canning and preserving the ridiculous bounty that our garden has been giving up.  It’s something that has to be done right now, which turns out to be good timing. And, it temporarily mellows me out a LOT.  Have I told you my theory about the internet morphing into a space that exists for the sole purpose of posting photos of your food and your kids?

home canning dill pickles jalapeños

Image up top: Pickled green beans and corn. Above: Just a few of the many jars of garlic dill pickles and jalapeños I’ve canned.  Oh yeah no biggie, but I’ve been told I make the best pickles ever.

blanching freezing green beans garden

Blanched garden green beans cooling off in an ice-water-bath before going into the freezer.

dill flowers

We could fill our entire kitchen with dill flowers if we so choose it.  Oh, it smells amazing.

huge garden tomato

The biggest tomato so far generously sacrificed itself in a delicious caprese salad.

jar preserved lemons

I even made a jar of preserved lemons.  I don’t even know what preserved lemons are, or what they taste like.

twisted heirloom carrots

The heirloom carrots are caught in a compromising position.  Oy, that’s all I got today.  Coach, I promise I’ll be back in the game shortly. With 110%.  Thanks for listening.  xx Shanan

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2013/07/22 / Shanan

A GENUINE DAY WILL COME

Good morning!  This weekend was kind of fantastic for many reasons.  Fun houseguests, delicious meals, swimming and sunning in the bay, pulling fresh veggies out of our garden – there was a lot of unplugged, in-the-moment enjoyment to be had.  But on Saturday night, alone at my desk, I found myself spiralling down the old internet ‘inspiration’ (air-quotes here) rabbit-hole, and realized I needed to take a step back.

I’ve been writing this blog for close to three months now so it seemed like an appropriate time to take stock of, and re-assess, a few things.  When I started it, I had been feeling quite low.  It seemed I hadn’t really been creative on my own terms in a long time, and just needed SOMEWHERE to channel all my restless energy.  I wanted to challenge myself in a public forum (even if it was only to a few people following along at the beginning) and just write, photograph, collect and share without having too much of a set agenda.

And the amazing thing is that I feel reborn.  Not, uh, in a Christian sense or anything.  But I feel an excitement, a purpose, and a satisfaction that’s been missing.  My family has crafted an incredible little life for ourselves and in a strange way, The Symmetric has allowed me to appreciate and savour it more.

So the good news is that I will continue to march ahead.  I would like to do so with a little more intention, though.

I’ve had people ask, ‘what is the website ultimately about?’ or ‘what is the end-goal in all of this?’ and I’ve just kind of brushed it off because I wasn’t sure what the answer was, or didn’t care to pigeonhole myself when I was still in the early stages, kind of fumbling my way around.

But I think I’m ready to declare at least a few allegiances, plant a flag on this moon, and seriously mix up my metaphors in the service of attempting to describe where I want this blog to go in the future. Stay with me here. I’m sweating a little.

These are the ideas that I keep coming back to.  That have the power to give me that uncontrollable, lump-in-my-throat feeling. That leave me actually inspired, instead of inspired-with-a-side-of-envy-or-self-loathing (you know what I’m talking about).  That make me reflect on my own life in an intriguing way:

1. The ability to express honesty and vulnerability through creative acts.

2. Seeing how people (especially women and mothers) go about their everyday routines, and how that fits into the bigger picture of their family, career, and identity.

3. The impact of sentimentality and nostalgia in how we connect, process experiences, and enjoy culture.

4. Appreciating simplicity and loveliness but also going further, past the merely ‘pretty’ to find beauty or meaning in things that may feel a bit weird, or uncomfortable.

You may be asking yourself, what the hell does this mean for the blog?  Well…  I want to share a little more of my own life and inner workings, and profile other interesting people.  I want to engage and connect with my readers, asking questions and provoking discussion.  And I want to veer away from the blatantly materialistic (OMFG I want this dress!) to feature more truly interesting or unique items with a story behind them, when appropriate.

I promise it will still be fun, and funny, and not all weirdly serious all of a sudden.  I just want to dig a little deeper, now and again, and make sure to focus on some of the things that really matter to me.  This may not make The Symmetric any easier to categorize (I still don’t know what that proverbial ‘end-goal’ is; Are you a ‘mommy’ blog? A design blog?  Aw f&ck), but I hope it will still become a small but thoughtful, humorous, and interesting part of your day.  Thanks for listening.  I really welcome your comments and feedback!  xx Shanan

Image above: Neon text installation by Lee Jung, via Colossal.

ps. The post title is taken from the first line of Wilco’s song, “In a Future Age.”

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2013/07/08 / Shanan

THE PARTY’S OVER

So.

After spending nearly my entire adult life riding public transit throughout Toronto and New York City, I now live in a little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town where having a car is an absolutely essential part of the everyday.  But as some of you may know, oops, what was it… oh yeah, I forgot to get a driver’s license.

And in fact I’m not one of those people who claims they know how to drive but just ‘never got around to’ getting their license. Oh no. I’ve only ever been behind the wheel of a car a handful of times.  For a long time it really was no big deal, then it kind of became a weird point of pride, and now it’s like a super lame secret that I try my best not to bring up in conversation.

But the party’s over, and this morning I begin driver’s ed.  I am subjecting myself to four days of sitting in a classroom with kids less than half my age (because in a small town, EVERYBODY gets their license at 16).  Hell, most of these teenagers have probably been driving their family’s pick-up trucks around their properties since they were, like, 9.

I’ve been told to pack a lunch, and that there will be ‘group work.’

This is officially a very, very low point for me.

Image above: Mahesh Shantaram, Aftermath. Photographic print available from Mammoth and Company. Shantaram is a photographer based in Bangalore, India who celebrates “the leftovers when all the exotic has been consumed or left to dry.”

His bio also states that “at 33, he still has never driven a car.”  Stick to your guns, Mahesh.

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2013/06/25 / Shanan

WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS

Oh come on now, I’m just kidding.  Sort of.

(Sweet jesus, I birthed a baby in that bed)

I’m still mildly embarrassed posting my snaps of our house but my mantra this week comes from Cher, who says that “until you’re ready to look foolish, you’ll never have the possibility of being great.”  Sing it.

Bedrooms often seem to be an afterthought in the everyday decorating scheme of things because you can close the door and nobody else ever has to see them.  But we live in a split-level bungalow situation and our room is on the same floor as the rest of our living space (it’s also right near the main bathroom, and has windows that overlook a deck-walk-through area so if you’re OUTSIDE you can also potentially see in), so no excuses, gotta make that bed.

I think we’ve done a relatively nice job of it thus far (my photography and duvet-de-wrinkling skills notwithstanding) but I’m getting that restless decor syndrome.  Oh, the dreaded RDS.  Hashtag FirstWorld Problems.  Something’s missing…

miles-redd-bedroom

It certainly wasn’t conscious, but I must have had this Miles Redd-designed bedroom (from my much beloved and now defunct Domino magazine) in mind when I put my scheme together.  The graphic rug paired with the feminine wallpaper, the clean lines of the bed, the pops of jewel tone.  Call me, Miles.

InsideOut-neon-bed

Then I discovered this spread, from the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Inside Out magazine (styling by Jason Grant, photography by Lauren Bamford).  A wrought-iron bed painted in neon:  A. good idea; B. crazy idea.  Or C. crazy good idea?

My alternative option is probably just to hang a piece of art behind the bed (possibly… a large-scale photographic print of a cockatoo).  Or, new pillows.  What do you think?

Our bedroom sources:

Bed – Ikea (similar-ish here)

RugStockholm, the workhorse classic from Ikea

Nightstands – I designed them, and Chris built them

Lamps – finds from a fruitful trip to HomeSense

Ottoman – vintage, recovered in emerald green velvet by my wonderful mother

WallpaperTopsy Turvy paper from Carla Venticinique-Osborn + Over & Over, from Anthropologie.  This is the MOST beautiful and quirky design.

Bedding – Pillow and cases from West Elm, duvet cover from Cuddledown (I got shiv’d on duty fees having that one sent to Canada. Why so difficult to find nice duvet covers here?)

bedroom-1

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2013/06/05 / Shanan

I’M SICK OF MYSELF WHEN I LOOK AT YOU

Two days ago, Theo had her first full-scale, rolling-on-the-grass-stomping-your-feet-GO-AWAY-MUMMY tantrum.  It was pretty out of character for her and felt hard to relate to while it was happening.  What could she be feeling?  It all seemed so irrational.

Then one of my moods slowly started creeping in this morning and suddenly I’m sitting here, all crocodile tear-y and filled with a kind of sad, simmering anger that almost seems too stupid to admit.  But I will, because one of the things I told myself when starting this website was that in addition to showing off, like, all the super rad things I like to look at and posting some of our family experiences, I also wanted it to feel real and honest.

Some days I just absolutely hate the internet because on every single site I visit, things look so g.d. PERFECT. Usually I love this stuff – I assure you I am not immune to the pull of beautiful things.  And I should be inspired. But I guess that today, seeing perfectly lit and professionally shot photos of your expertly styled home full of expensive things is pissing me off.  Seeing super skinny women with shiny hair holding up their just-three-month old babies are pissing me off.  Seeing colour-coordinated sparkly donut parties are pissing me off.  I think that seeing SUCCESS is just filling me with a really unattractive brand of envy and I am having an internal ‘tantrum’ moment of my own.

SO.  Time to laugh it off (this is just the kind of dumb thing that’s helping a little bit).  Go for a walk.  Swear off Pinterest for the rest of the day.  Deep breath.  Do you ever feel this way?

Update: I just came across an eloquent post from a couple months ago by Victoria (SF Girl by Bay) that addresses some similar feelings.  It’s a good read.